Although divorce has an effect on everyone who goes through it, Native American families face unique challenges.
Read on to learn more about how you can help your child of Native American heritage cope with your divorce.
History of Marriage & Divorce in Native Families
Each Native American tribe has its own concept of marriage and the ceremony that accompanies the union. This makes it particularly difficult to make generalities about Native American marriages.
In 2009, the United States census bureau reported 39% of American Indian and Alaskan natives were married-couple families. The same report also provides that roughly 13% of the American Indian/Alaskan Native population has gone through a divorce.
Since each Native American tribe has its own practices for marriage, it is fitting that each tribe also has its own practices for getting a divorce.
The Importance of Preserving Tribal History
Unfortunately, a lot of Native American culture has been lost in our history, which results in our Native American children knowing little about who they are, where they came from, and the foundations that built their families and communities. While it may be easier to allow your Native American child to assimilate to the current culture in America than it is to help them preserve their tribal history, it is very important that you help facilitate their learning and understanding of their American Indian culture. Especially during difficult times like a divorce, have your children connect with their grandparents, extended families, or community elders is a great way to teach them about their Native American roots and an additional level of support and stability to help them get through the divorce.
Studies show that Native American students who are given the opportunity to absorb their historical culture end up with higher academic performances, have higher self-esteem, and are more productive as well as happier than their counterparts who are unable to learn about their native heritage.
How You Can Help Your Child Cope
There’s no doubt that going through a divorce is difficult for the children involved, but the good news is that once they come out of it, the children may be better able to cope with stress, and it’s likely they’ll become more flexible and tolerant as a result.
In addition, there are some steps you can take to ease the process for them. Some of the most important steps you can take to make the ordeal more comfortable for them are as follows:
- Protect them from visible conflict, heated discussions, and legal talk.
- Try to disrupt their daily routines as little as possible.
- Don’t burden them with negativity and blame—reserve that for private therapy sessions or conversations with friends outside of your home.
- Make sure each parent stays involved in the children’s lives.
- Don’t forget about extended families like grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, in helping your children adjust to their new routines and environments.
While it may feel right at the time to seek support from your kids during your divorce, you should strictly avoid doing so and instead, seek support from friends, professionals, tribal leaders, tribal elders, and family.
Don’t Wait to Break The News
Once you are 100% certain that you and your spouse are getting a divorce, it’s a good idea to speak with your children about the decision to live apart. Breaking this news is not easy, but it’s a good idea to have both parents involved when the time comes. Don’t allow feelings of anger, guilt, or blame to surface during this conversation. Run through this discussion before you have it with your children so that you can get any negative underlying feelings out when they’re not around.
Perhaps most importantly, make sure your children know that your separation is not their fault. Most children inherently take the blame for their parents’ divorce, so be sure to continue reassuring them that’s not the case.
We’re Here to Help
If you need help with the details of your divorce, our tribal and family law attorneys at Circling Eagle Law are here to help. We have helped countless other Native American families end their marriages amicably, and we can help your family, too. Don’t hesitate to contact our office with your tribal and family law needs right away.
Call Circling Eagle Law today at (701) 401-7404 discuss your child support case.